Tag Archives: life coach

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Just before I left my corporate gig last spring I was out visiting some extended family in the country. This couple is related to me via marriage (My aunt’s brother and partner but my aunt is my aunt via marriage…confused? No matter, family has little to do with blood in my experience). Bob and Liz are the most amazing people. They have been together for almost 40 years, they are not legally married but they are still madly in love and have built a life for themselves (including raising a daughter) in an idyllic village in rural Ontario. Both of them are originally from Scotland and like my own parents immigrated to Toronto to follow some dreams. Those dreams didn’t work out as expected so they moved to small town Ontario to start again. Bob is wood-carver, Liz is a potter, they are both known in the folk art community and they live in a restored limestone house in a beautiful village not far from Prince Edward County in southern Ontario. I always thought of them as this bohemian branch of the family, driving their big old Cadillac, Bob in his Tilly hat, Liz with her long hair/cool hippie vibe, creative and living life on their own terms outside of what society considers ‘normal’. I love visiting them and I don’t get out nearly as often as I’d like to but their house is so inviting, you never want to leave (a walk after lunch last spring resulted in freshly picked wild asparagus!).

 

As we sat down to lunch last spring just a few short months from my exodus from my job Bob told me a story I had never heard before. Bob, this Sean Connery look a like (with a Glasgow accent mind you), Tilly hat wearing, wood carving, outdoor loving man was in fact at one time just like me! In 1970’s Toronto Bob had been a salesman….in the automotive industry…..one of his biggest clients was the very organization I worked for! Bob had a company car and big sales account. Bob also had a serious drinking problem. People with drinking problems are not happy people; addiction is often a by-product of depression. (I would know, I come from a family filled with addicts but I’m happy to say one of them: my father, has been sober for 14 years, no small feat!) Life was not going as Bob had hoped and he and Liz decided to try something else.

With that, Bob drove his big company car with all the sales tools in the trunk to his office. He walked into his boss’ office and said (with his Glaswegian accent) “I’m for the offs!” Handed over the car keys and walked out the front door. Bob told me he didn’t actually even realize how he’d get back home as he was in the habit of driving to the office and wasn’t sure what streetcar to take. Bob had no plans, no idea what was going to happen next, how he was going to make money but he knew he couldn’t continue the life he was currently living. Bob and Liz found a dilapidated Ontario limestone cottage in a rural part of the province (a raccoon family was living there when they arrived) and started building a new life. They had no idea how they’d repair the house, or pay their bills, they just knew they wanted a fresh start. Bob didn’t even know he had any talents as a wood-carver; he discovered that by accident as he was repairing the house and started carving a piece of wood. Together Bob and Liz built a potter’s workhouse, a  wood shop, a home for them, their daughter and assorted pets (no raccoons) and the bills got paid/they got fed through selling their beautiful wares (Liz’s work was sold throughout the province and had a large following in Quebec, and Bob’s work is sold at rather expensive shops in downtown Toronto: I have one of his stunning Celtic crosses on my dining room wall) or trading work (i.e.: home improvement) for money.

Here all this time I thought this couple I had admired for their life of following their passion, bohemian existence etc had in fact not always been like that. They had at one time lived in the ‘big city’ and worked at ‘real jobs’ just like me! I was obviously a bit nervous about the journey I was about to embark on but Bob told me to just move forward. He said he could tell that I was ready, much like my cousin had said the year before (Her comment: it’s done, don’t worry about how….it’s already in motion) he told me just to step into this new life and not look back.

I don’t know where I’ll be in 40 years. I don’t necessarily know where I’ll be next year. I do know this: with each day that passes, with the people I meet and the opportunities that come in front of me I know that the path I’m on now is the right one. I can’t see the end destination yet and I’d rather not know, I’m focusing on enjoying the journey (a tough habit to cultivate I must admit). I also hope that one day in the future when I speak to someone who didn’t know me when that they are as surprised as I was to find out Bob’s past when they find out mine: another case of mistaken identity. That sounds perfect.

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Exodus: June 2012

So the pieces of my long-term plan came together…the house was purchased, I had moved in, set up as much as I felt was necessary to make it feel like ‘home’ (i.e.: painted, decorated, the furniture I needed in place to live in place etc.), the Arbonne business was up and running with 2 active team members, my yoga teacher had come forward and proposed the idea of me teaching in his new studio in the fall…only one thing left to do: resign from my corporate job. It’s funny, you dream about the moment, quitting, finally ‘getting out’, moving on to this ‘dream’ life where you get to decide what to do/how to live but when the moment finally arrives: it can be a scary one. I already knew what the date would be-June 30, 2012 (as a last day of work). I had committed two years in the role to my vice president and that would be me just over two years. I had even already decided to give a month’s notice because it was a huge project with a go live date for a software implementation in June with new people coming aboard to help with that I figured it would be easier to transition my responsibilities as they were sorting all of that out (A guess that was correct on my part as they didn’t replace me: they farmed out my responsibilities to assorted teams).  The first week of June came way faster than I expected it to and it was time to tell my VP what I planned to do. I had no idea I’d be so nervous/scared to tell her. In fact the guy I was dating at the time had even told me to be prepared for some emotional ups and downs through this as it was like ending a 12-year relationship (Was he ever right!). I almost threw up the night I sent the email requesting time with my VP to tell her in person and my stomach was doing flip-flops when I walked into her office after hours that night to tell her I was resigning. I had known Jane for years and she is a lovely woman, had been very good to me…we both got a bit misty eyed in our conversation but in the end she was very happy for me.  We had got to know each other via a lunch time yoga class we attended with some fellow colleagues so it was only fitting we discussed me leaving the organization to follow a dream of teaching yoga and building a health & wellness business. Little did I know that getting a little misty eyed with my boss was only a taste of what was to come?

That was the first week of June, what would follow in the next few days, weeks, months would lead me to creating this blog. I was in no way prepared and completely surprised by the reaction I would get from people as word started spreading throughout the organization about the girl on the 12th floor who was leaving the company to pursue a career in health & wellness and teach yoga.  I spent the next 4 weeks transitioning my responsibilities, tying off loose ends with the project and going for a lot of coffees, lunches and visits to say good-bye to the many, many folks I had met and become friends with over my 12 years at the company. Many of these conversations were very business like: “nice working with you, all the best etc.” but many of the conversations went very differently then I was expecting them too! I had several folks burst into tears, several get misty eyed, and even a couple heated discussions one of which resulted in a woman storming away from me in the hallway. I recognize these reactions had little to do with me (I’m in no way saying these people were crying because I was leaving), rather we would get to talking about their lives, where they see themselves in a few years and then…that’s when I’d get the reaction.  I am not a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, a social worker, or counselor but I can tell you this: when you get really honest, and start telling people what’s really going on in your head, how you really feel you’d be amazed at how honest folks get with you! I also discovered that most people felt the same way I did…. they didn’t love their jobs per say but weren’t quite sure what they wanted to do with their careers lives etc. Finally I discovered that I was in fact very lucky, I had discovered what I was passionate about and had (bravely I’m told) decided to pursue it. I was a very lucky and grateful lady.

That brings me to the ongoing theme/what I’ll be writing about in this blog going forward. More heated debates/discussions, crying, raw honesty and laughter. General networking, meeting more like-minded folks, building relationships and the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. Hopefully I’ll hear from some of you out there, your journey, your ups and downs because if there is one thing I know from all of this: I’m not the only one out there taking this journey and there tons of folks out there who want to/or will in the near future…and I for one will be cheering those folks on just like the folks cheering me on right now.

May 2011: A Decision

I’ve often heard that you have to decide before you do anything, decide how you want things to be then commit to action. Those comments never really resonated with me in the past if I’m being very honest. In my business there is a legendary woman named Debbie Neal (Google her: Millionaire Mom, Arbonne consultant extraordinaire) who always talks about this, she often starts her extremely inspiring public talks with the comment “Decide to be the bar for you and your team, decide to be successful. Excellence is not a skill, it’s a habit, it’s a decision you make every day to be better. ” I was about to learn how true these statements were. As I’ve already explained, I didn’t really thing about putting a plan in place for my life or even really give a lot of thought to how I wanted it to look. I wasn’t living by design….who would have thought a conversation with my boss and some templates on paper would change all that?

I took those career/life coach templates I talked about away with me as instructed by my coach. I went over to Scotland for a family wedding. A large chunk of the trip was spent out in the beautiful highlands of Scotland (put that on your bucket list if you’ve never been) staying with an Aunt & Uncle. I have an aunt who herself defies the laws of aging/society etc. She’s turning 74 this year, looks about 20 years younger and can do things people 40 years younger struggle with (ie: running half marathons with impressive finish times, hill walking, yoga, traveling etc), and her views of life have always been out of the box. This would explain why we’ve always gotten along. I lived with her and my uncle for a short time with I was 18 and in the years since we always have the best conversations–we keep in touch via email often now as she lives an ocean away. I think one of the reasons we get along is because she’s always ‘seen me’. What do I mean by that? She has always encouraged me to just be me, do what I want to do, not what I’m expected to do (that will be a theme in this blog….you’ve been warned). In fact one of the most hysterical quotes I have by her is this: “You know dear, I’ll always support any decision you make but you’ll never fulfill your full potential as a human being if you decide to get married”. I laughed my head off when she said that and when I tell people the response varies from hysterical laughter to crickets…..depends on the person really. Any-who, I do think that being around her, climbing my first Munro (any hill in Scotland over 3000 ft up) and just being away from the grind of my stressful career gave me the clear head to fill out the templates with complete honesty. I was also able to define what I wanted out of life and actually put it to paper…..something I think we’ve firmly established I didn’t do much of before.

So what were the results?

  • The clear message from all the tests, templates and conversations was that I should be in the health and wellness field (no surprise to anyone who knows me well)
  • A role out of the confines of the 9 to 5 corp structure, something with more flexibility would be a better fit for me.
  • Something where I get to physically move as opposed to sitting at a desk all day.
  • Working with people was key
  • Doing something on my own (entrepreneur) was a better fit for me..Not being tied to one geographical area was a clear desire (see point 2)

I didn’t really know what to do with these results (the only advice the career coach had given was “research the health and wellness industry”…gee, thanks.), but I did know this, it was time to make a decision and put a plan into place. I decided (pretty much when I got to the top of my first Munro ever with my Aunt) that I wanted a different life. I wanted out of the corporate grind, I wanted to get into my own venture, I wanted something under the health and wellness umbrella and I wanted to work with people/help people to do the same. I decided then when I got home I would start looking into how to make this all happen.

A funny thing happens when you decide, things have a funny way of falling into place. While I was away cousin of mine (who made a similar leap in her own life-expect more on her in future posts) had been told me this while we were at our cousin’s wedding. I told her what I was thinking and her response was “It’s done, I can see it in your face, don’t worry about how it’s going to happen–it will”. Was she ever right, after I got home the opportunities I would end up pursuing presented themselves to me…….

1) An old friend who I took and annual surfing trip with contacted me about her new home based business. It was with a company I’d never heard of but they were a health and wellness company, Swiss, vegan certified, with some very impressive people at the helm. This company is Arbonne (Pure, safe, beneficial–google them). They have a product line of over 450 items spanning from skin care, baby care, cosmetics and a whole wellness line of protein shakes, vitamins etc. The company is headed up by a woman named Kay Napier who had an impressive career with P & G and McDonald’s and the head of research & development is Dr. Peter Matravers, the man behind the Aveda brand. The company is a networking marketing/direct sell business, and it was an industry I knew little about other than other brands from that area (Pampered Chef, Avon etc). I had preconceived ideas (is that a pyramid?) but I learned quickly it was a low risk/high return, perfectly timed (network marketing is predicted to produce the next round of billionaires for a variety of reason I won’t go into right now), incredibly ethical and it fit right on it to my desire to get into the health and wellness industry.  I started by business (on the side of my corp career at the time) in the fall of 2011.

2) Another old friend (ironically this one hired me into the corporation I was working for!) contacted me while I was away about a side project of his. A mobile marketing company that was still very small but had a couple high-profile clients–including a competitor of the retailer I worked for. They had a need for someone who had business experience to client manage/project mange. They had no real office, work from home was the reality and it would be as flexible as I needed it to be. The only catch was that they couldn’t pay me much so I’d need other streams of income….see point 1! We met as soon as I came home to start talking about timing and how we’d make it work….I didn’t actually start with them until July 2012 as I still had my corp full-time gig but the decision was made that I work with them in May 2011.

3) My yoga teacher/mentor was doing his first ‘intensive’ (teacher training) at his studio (my local studio that I practiced at regularly). It would be a month-long on top of my regular long hours at my corp gig but it was the first step towards entering the realm of teaching….I signed up as soon as I got back from Scotland.

This all happened within weeks of me landing back on Canadian soil (really). I had no idea whatsoever at the top of that mountain how I’d change the course of my life, I just knew I wanted to change it. I made a decision. Someone listened, the opportunities presented themselves to me right away…what was the difference? This time, I was ready for it, looking for it, and able to recognize the opportunity when it came in front of me. All because I finally made a decision…step one.

Okay, decision made, opportunities in place, now what? Action. A plan needed to be put in place and executed upon…sound familiar? (go back to my first post) This is ironically exactly what I was getting paid to do for a corporate initiative in my day job! They say God/the universe has a sense of humour…yes, it certainly does! I had just spent a year planning and monitoring the execution of a major project, now it was time to apply those skills to a new project..a new life for me.